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Scotland launches public consultation on biometrics code of practice

The Scottish Government has launched public consultation to collect input into the creation of a code of practice to be overseen by the Scottish Biometric Commissioner to govern the usage, storage, and disposal of biometric data, The Scotsman reports.

The consultation was one of several recommendations from an Independent Advisory Group on biometrics earlier this year, and will be taken into consideration as the government weighs additional rules to ensure the safe and proportionate use of biometric technology.

As elsewhere in the UK, fingerprint, DNA, and facial recognition data is held by law enforcement agencies, including Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.

“Biometric data is critical to police investigations, including the prevention of crime. At the same time, it is important that the public have confidence in how this information is held, used and disposed of, which is why we want their views on these proposals,” said Cabinet secretary Humza Yousaf. “The creation of a code of practice, and a new commissioner to oversee that, will allow us to take full advantage of current and new technologies, and future developments in biometrics. By asking the public their views we are recognising not only the significance of biometrics to policing but also the important ethical and human rights considerations associated with such information.”

The Scottish Human Rights Commission chair Judith Robinson hailed the consultation as a “timely development,” and said public awareness and confidence needed to be increased in other areas of technology relating to data.

“Biometric technologies are a fast-developing area – consider, for example, recent debate around facial recognition – with potential for enhanced public protection and security,” said John Scott QC, who chaired the Independent Advisory Group. “It is, however, crucial that such developments occur in an ethical framework with proper respect for privacy and other human rights, as opposed to being solely technology-driven.”

Scottish law enforcement agencies are currently considering adding handheld latent fingerprint scanners as well as iris recognition technology to quickly identify individuals in custody.